Green cremation gets green light in Saskatchewan

Nov 29, 2012 | News

By Chanelle Seguin

Saskatchewan is the first province in Canada to approve an energy-efficient way of  cremating bodies.

Joe Wilson, CEO of Bio-Response Solutions, the Pittsboro, Ind., company that makes and installs the machines for alkaline hydrolysis, said this method uses about “one tenth of the carbon footprint of a fire cremation.”

“We do have to use chemicals so that offsets the energy use a little bit,” Wilson told Humber News. “However, we have no air pollution so in the end it is still more beneficial.”

Alkaline hydrolysis differs from fire cremation because the process liquefies the body instead of burning it. The body is liquefied and drained away with the bone material remaining.

Alkaline hydrolysis doesn’t emit greenhouse gases like fire cremation. COURTESY BIO-RESPONSE SOLUTIONS

Wilson’s company installed the first unit last year at Edward’s Funeral Service in Columbus, Ohio.

“We developed our equipment just a couple years ago,” said Wilson. “This method is just in its infancy. There will be a unit coming into Saskatchewan soon.”

Alkaline hydrolysis has been approved in Saskatchewan, but Canadian funeral homes have yet to introduce this substitute cremation.

Thomas Geiger, manager of Kindersley Community Funeral Home in Kindersley, Sask.,  said he welcomes this new alternative.

“We are starting to ask people about the option and see what the response is,” said Geiger. “I think it’s great to have another viable option for families . . .  to look after loved ones.”

David Garvie, director for the Ontario Funeral Service Association, said the popularity of cremation is dependent on location and culture.

“In my understanding, if you live out west, about 80 per cent of the funeral homes out there would be requested to provide cremation as a final means of disposition,” said Garvie.

“It’s dependent on where you live and religion also plays a part. In downtown Toronto with the high Portuguese and Italian population, cremation is not often requested because these cultures prefer entombment or earth burial,” he said.

“Ontario is currently looking to include this type of cremation (alkaline hydrolysis) into their services,” said Garvie. “For Ontario to have this service, it would have to be approved by the Ontario Ministry of Health.”

Mark Riposta, manager of Natural Green Cremation in Belfast, Maine,  has been using this method for several months  and said the system is marginally more costly than fire cremation. It takes about four hours to cremate a body using alkaline, whereas fire cremation is complete after about an hour.

Riposta said the U.S. cost for the green method is $1, 995.

“It’s not about the money for . . . environmental people,” said Riposta. “They want to do that because they feel that it’s the correct thing to do for the environment.”

Many people like to keep urns of the ashes of their loved ones. Geiger said this is still possible with the alkaline hydrolysis method.

“The end result is very similar to cremation,” said Geiger. “At the end, bone material remains so you would get a sort of ash back from this process as well from the bone material.”

Geiger explained that when a funeral home in Saskatchewan does begin to use this method, other organizations that do not use the system will be able to transfer bodies for treatment.


Spreading The Ashes

David Garvie gives a list of some of the different ways one can spread their loved one’s ashes.

Garvie said, “It’s amazing, it’s absolutely amazing what people are doing with remains. It’s almost unlimited as to what you can do as long as you don’t infringe upon laws that would prohibit how you are spreading the ashes.”

  • Urn
  • Over water
  • Send to space
  • Fireworks
  • Bird bath
  • Diamonds
  • Oil paints
  • Coral reefs (to help revive damaged reefs)
  • Mix with concrete